Rabin: IDF Could Withdraw from Lebanon in 6-9 Months Once the Government Decides to Withdraw

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a television interview program last night that he still thought the Israel Defense Force could withdraw from Lebanon in six to nine months once the government decides to withdraw, but it was not yet known when such a decision would be taken. He indicated it might take some months before a definite decision would be reached.

He is to present a preliminary report to the Ministerial Security Committee this week, and to the full Cabinet next week.

Rabin said he was not surprised or disappointed by the preliminary Syrian reaction to Israeli proposals for indirect talks with Syria, via the United States, on security arrangements for Israel in Lebanon.

Rabin said he thought it would be possible to reach such an agreement whereby the Syrians would not move south from the lines presently held by the IDF, and would prevent the passage southwards of PLO fighters and terrorists. Rabin said a political solution must be found, because a military solution would be worse.

He said that while Israel would not allow terrorists to approach the Israeli border, the IDF could not guarantee that no single Katyusha rocket would ever be launched from Lebanese territory towards Israel.

In an address to some 400 United Jewish Appeal delegates in Jerusalem this week, Rabin had said that Syria appeared ready for indirect talks with Israel via the U.S.

It was the Syrians negative reactions to this statement that he referred to when he said he was neither surprised nor disappointed by the Damascus reaction.

Rabin said Syria held the key to a settlement in Lebanon, and it was a pity that both the U.S. and Israel had overlooked this fact in previous agreements and arrangements with and on Lebanon. He said Syria’s role in maintaining peace when this was in Damascus interests was shown by the peaceful situation on the Golan Heights.

PEACE IS NOT A FAVOR

A similar view was expressed by Premier Shimon Peres when he told a group of 40 diplomats stationed in Israel that if Syria agrees to negotiate a settlement in Lebanon it would not be merely in the nature of a favor to Israel or to Lebanon. He suggested that a settlement would bring “peace for Galilee, peace for Beirut and peace for Damascus.” The problem, he told the diplomats today, was not in finding a partner for negotiations, but rather to find an opening position which would be acceptable to both partners.

Asked by the Canadian Ambassador if there was any news regarding possible negotiations between Israel and Jordan, Peres replied: “There is a problem of credibility, how to enable Jordan to understand that we are sincere in our wish to open negotiations without prior conditions, and also not being over-demanding.”

Therefore, Peres suggested, Israel’s challenge is to persuade Jordan that peace can be built in stages and not in one big “jump with a magic solution to all the problems.”

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